NH GOP leaders want to allow guns in Statehouse

By Norma Love
Associated Press / December 29, 2010

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CONCORD, N.H.—House Republican leaders want to lift a ban on guns and other dangerous weapons in the New Hampshire Statehouse complex put in place last year by Democrats.

House Speaker William O'Brien raised the issue Wednesday at a meeting of the Joint Legislative Facilities Committee, which is in charge of the Statehouse facilities.

Last year, the same legislative committee, led by Democrats, reinstated a ban on weapons that had been in place from 1996 to 2006. The committee, now with Republicans in charge, plans to bring up the proposal to lift the ban next Tuesday.

O'Brien, R-Mont Vernon, said he wants to reverse the ban and proposed discussing it Wednesday.

But Senate President Peter Bragdon said one of his objections to the ban last year was that Democrats imposed it without enough notice to the public that it was being considered. People who wanted to testify on reversing the ban should be given notice to appear next week, said Bragdon, R-Milford.

At Bragdon's suggestion, the committee recessed without discussing the measure.

Criticized for not giving notice of its vote, the Democratic-led committee reconsidered the decision last year and arrived at the same conclusion. Attempts by House Republicans to overturn the ban through legislation failed earlier this year.

Weapons at the Statehouse became a concern when people with guns stood and shouted at lawmakers from the House gallery during debate and votes on a resolution to reaffirm the state's freedom from interference by the federal government, except in areas where the U.S. Constitution gives it powers. The resolution failed, upsetting its supporters.

Democrats, who had control of the House and Senate until the November election, then reinstated the ban.

Gun rights activists demonstrated outside the Statehouse in protest. Ban opponents said they should be allowed to carry guns as a safety measure.

Ban supporters said people who feel they need to bring guns to the Statehouse can give their weapons to security officers to hold until they leave the buildings. They said visitors include school children who should not be exposed to guns in the Statehouse.